Rank in Judo

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In jūdō, rank is denoted by colored belts.

In Judo, improvement and understanding of the art is denoted by a system of ranks split into kyū and dan grades. These are indicated with various systems of coloured belts, with the black belt indicating a practitioner who has attained a certain level of competence.

The Kōdōkan Kyū-Dan ranking system[edit]

Kanō's original kyū-dan grading system
Rank Senior Junior Japanese name
Sixth kyu
(beginner)
Judo light blue belt.svg
Light
blue
Judo light blue belt.svg
Light
blue
rokkyū (六級?)
Fifth kyu
Fourth kyu
Judo white belt.svg
White
Judo white belt.svg
White
gokyū (五級?)
yonkyū (四級?)
Third kyu
Second kyu
First kyu
Judo brown belt.svg
Brown
Judo purple belt.svg
Purple
sankyū (三級?)
nikyū (二級?)
ikkyū (一級?)
First dan
Second dan
Third dan
Fourth dan
Fifth dan
Judo black belt.svg
Black belt 2nd dan.svg
Black belt 3rd dan.svg
Black belt 4th dan.svg
Black belt 5th dan.svg
Black
shodan (初段?)
nidan (二段?)
sandan (三段?)
yodan (四段?)
godan (五段?)
Sixth dan
Seventh dan
Eighth dan
Judo red white belt.svg
Red and White
or
Judo black belt.svg
Black
rokudan (六段?)
shichidan (七段?)
hachidan (八段?)
Ninth dan
Tenth dan
Eleventh dan
Judo red belt.svg
Red
or
Judo black belt.svg
Black
kudan (九段?)
jūdan (十段?)

Practitioners of Judo (柔道家 Jūdōka?) are ranked according to skill and knowledge of the art. Their rank is indicated by the colour of belt that they wear. There are two broad categories of rank: those who have attained a level of competency at which they are considered worthy of a black belt (黒帯 kuro obi?) and who hold dan (?) grades and those who are yet to attain that level and who hold kyū (?) grades. Those who hold dan grades are collectively termed Yūdansha (有段者?) (literally "person who has dan") and those with kyū grades are Mudansha (無段者?), literally "person without dan".

This ranking system was introduced by Kanō Jigorō, the founder of judo, in 1883. However, the current system is not the original one, but based on Kanō's last system introduced between 1926-1931, with some modification shortly after Kanō's death in 1938. The first dan grades were awarded to his students Saigō Shirō and Tomita Tsunejirō. Since then it has been widely adopted by modern martial arts.[1]

In the current system as in use in Japan, there are six student grades ranked in descending numerical order. Beginners were given the rank of sixth kyu (六級 roku-kyū?) and wore a light blue belt. Once they had passed an elementary level of instruction, they were promoted to fifth kyu (五級 go-kyū?), when they would adopt the white belt. This they wore through fourth kyu (四級 yon-kyū?). The remaining three grades (third kyu (三級 san-kyū?), second kyu (二級 ni-kyū?) and first kyu (一級 ik-kyū?) were all indicated with brown belts (for seniors) or with purple belts (for juniors).

1st kyū is the last kyu rank before promotion to first degree black belt (shodan). There are ordinarily 10 dan ranks, which are ranked in ascending numerical order, though in principle there is no limit to the number of dan ranks.

Highest ranking jūdōka[edit]

Main article: List of judoka

Kōdōkan-graded jūdan holders[edit]

The ninth ("kudan") and tenth degree black belt (jūdan) and, theoretically, those higher have no formal requirements. Only fifteen individuals have been promoted to the rank of Kodokan 10th dan. On January 6, 2006, three individuals were promoted to this rank simultaneously: Toshiro Daigo, Ichiro Abe, and Yoshimi Osawa. This is the most ever at the same time, and the first in 22 years. No one has ever been promoted to a rank higher than 10th dan, but theoretically the Judo rank system is not limited to 10 degrees of black belt. The original English language copy (1955) of Illustrated Kodokan Judo, by Jigoro Kano, says:

However, since there has never been any promotion to a rank above 10th dan, the Kodokan Judo promotion system effectively has only 10 dan ranks. There have only been 15 10th dans awarded by the Kodokan in the history of Judo.[2]

Kōdōkan graded tenth dans (十段 jū-dan?)
Name Lived Date of promotion
Yamashita Yoshitsugu 1865–1935 1935
Isogai Hajime 1871–1947 1937
Nagaoka Hideichi 1876–1952 1937
Mifune Kyūzō 1883–1965 1945
Iizuka Kunisaburō 1875–1958 1946
Samura Kaichirō 1880–1964 1948
Tabata Shotarō 1884–1950 1948
Okano Yoshitarō 1885–1967 1967 posth.
Shōriki Matsutarō 1885–1969 1969 posth., antedated
Nakano Shōzō 1888–1977 1977 posth., antedated
Kurihara Tamio 1896–1979 1979 posth., antedated
Kotani Sumiyuki 1903–1991 1984
Abe Ichirō 1923- 2006
Daigo Toshirō 1926- 2006
Ōsawa Yoshimi 1927- 2006

Variations in rank structure[edit]

Although dan ranks tend to be consistent between national organizations there is more variation in the kyū grades, with some countries having more kyū grades. Although initially kyū grade belt colours were uniformly white, today a variety of colours are used. The first black belts to denote a Dan rank in the 1880s. Initially the wide obi was used; as practitioners trained in kimono, only white and black obi were used. It was not until the early 1900s, after the introduction of the judogi, that an expanded colored belt system of awarding rank was created.[1]

Belt colors[edit]

See List of judoka

Judo belt colors in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.
White Judo white belt.svg
Yellow Judo yellow belt.svg
Orange Judo orange belt.svg
Green Judo green belt.svg
Blue Judo blue belt.svg
Brown Judo brown belt.svg
Black Judo black belt.svg

For dan ranks, the first five are colored black, 6th, 7th, and 8th dan have alternating red and white panels (dandara), and for 9th, 10th and 11th dan the belts are solid red.[3] The final Dan is the twelfth dan, this is usually coloured white along with a judoka's first belt, however the highest dan reached in judo remains 10th dan.[4] However, holders of grades above godan (5th dan) will often wear a plain black belt in regular training.

Some countries also use colored tips on belts, to indicate junior age groups. Historically, women's belts had a white stripe along the centre.[5]

Examination requirements vary depending on country, age group and of course the grade being attempted. The examination itself may include competition and kata. The kyū ranks are normally awarded by local instructors (sensei), but dan ranks are usually awarded only after an exam supervised by independent judges from a national judo association. For a rank to be recognized, it must be registered with the national judo organization or the Kodokan.

Japan[edit]

In Japan, the use of belt colors is related to the age of the student. Some clubs will only have black and white, others will include a brown belt for advanced kyū grades and at the elementary school level it is common to see a green belt for intermediate levels.

Israel[edit]

Judo kyu belt colors in Israel
White Judo white belt.svg KYU 6
White-Purple No Picture KYU 6
Purple Judo purple belt.svg KYU 6
White-Yellow Judo white-yellow belt.svg KYU 6
Yellow Judo yellow belt.svg KYU 5
Yellow-Purple No Picture KYU 5
Yellow-Orange Judo yellow-orange belt.svg KYU 5
Orange Judo orange belt.svg KYU 4
Orange-Green Judo orange-green belt.svg KYU 4
Green Judo green belt.svg KYU 3
Blue-Green Judo green-blue belt.svg KYU 3
Blue Judo blue belt.svg KYU 2
Brown Judo brown belt.svg KYU 1
Black Judo black belt.svg DAN 1-5
Black or Red-White Judo red white belt.svg DAN 6-8
Black or Red Judo red belt.svg DAN 9+

Brazil[edit]

Judo belt colors in Brazil
White Judo white belt.svg
Grey Judo grey belt.svg
Blue Judo blue belt.svg
Yellow Judo yellow belt.svg
Orange Judo orange belt.svg
Green Judo green belt.svg
Purple Judo purple belt.svg
Brown Judo brown belt.svg
Black Judo black belt.svg

Brazilian belt rankings are normally white, blue, yellow, orange, green, purple, brown and black (6th, 7th, and 8th dan may wear alternating red and white panels, and 9th and 10th dan holders may wear solid red belts).[6] Additionally, a grey belt may be given to very young judoka (under 11 or 13 years old) just before the blue. Sometimes, competitors are organized into two categories depending on grading; the first is from white to green, and the second is purple through black.

Canada[edit]

In Canada belt rankings for Seniors are, in ascending order: white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown and finally black. Belt rankings for Juniors use white-red, white, white-yellow, yellow, yellow-orange, orange, red- green, green-blue, blue, blue-brown, and brown.[7]

Australia[edit]

In Australia belt rankings for Seniors are, in ascending order: white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown and finally black. Belt rankings for Juniors now start with a white belt and use 20 grades to achieve over time (as a junior) with no relegation of grade and a recommended progression rate of two grades per year: white, white-yellow, white-yellow with black tip, yellow, yellow with black tip, yellow-orange, yellow-orange with black tip, orange, orange with black tip, orange-green, orange-green with black tip, green, green with black-tip, green-blue, green-blue with black tip, blue, blue with black tip, blue-brown, blue-brown with black tip, brown and brown with black tip.[8]

Ireland[edit]

In Ireland the senior belt system is white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown and black. A practitioner must be at least sixteen before being eligible to grade for blackbelt. For white,yellow,orange and green belt gradings are held in the practitioners club and are based on demonstration of a syllabus and kata. For promotion to blue and brown the judoka must compete at a national grading against players of their own rank and win at least two fights by ippon or wazari. To achieve black belt a judoka must earn 100 points i.e. 10 points for every ippon or wazari victory against a brown belt.

United States of America[edit]

Judo kyū belt colors in the United States
Japanese
kyū names
USJF
Senior
USJF
Junior
USJA
Senior
USJA
Junior
USJA Junior
level names
Jūnikyū Judo white belt.svg
White
Junior 12th Class
Jūichikyū Judo white belt.svg
White
Judo yellow belt.svg
Yellow
Junior 11th Class
Jūkyū Judo white-yellow belt.svg
White-
yellow
Judo orange belt.svg
Orange
Junior 10th Class
Kukyū Judo yellow belt.svg
Yellow
Judo orange belt.svg
Orange
Junior 9th Class
Hachikyū Judo yellow-orange belt.svg
Yellow-
orange
Judo green belt.svg
Green
Junior 8th Class
Nanakyū
or USJA Senior
"Beginner"
Judo orange belt.svg
Orange
Judo white belt.svg
White
Judo green belt.svg
Green
Junior 7th Class
Rokkyū Judo white belt.svg
White
Judo orange-green belt.svg
Orange-
green
Judo yellow belt.svg
Yellow
Judo blue belt.svg
Blue
Junior 6th Class
Gokyū Judo green belt.svg
Green
Judo green belt.svg
Green
Judo orange belt.svg
Orange
Judo blue belt.svg
Blue
Junior 5th Class
Yonkyū Judo blue belt.svg
Blue
Judo green-blue belt.svg
Green-
blue
Judo green belt.svg
Green
Judo purple belt.svg
Purple
Junior 4th Class
Sankyū Judo brown belt.svg
Brown
Judo blue belt.svg
Blue
Judo brown belt.svg
Brown
Judo purple belt.svg
Purple
Junior 3rd Class
Nikyū Judo brown belt.svg
Brown
Judo blue-purple belt.svg
Blue-
purple
Judo brown belt.svg
Brown
Judo brown belt.svg
Brown
Junior 2nd Class
Ikkyū Judo brown belt.svg
Brown
Judo purple belt.svg
Purple
Judo brown belt.svg
Brown
Judo brown belt.svg
Brown
Junior 1st Class

In the US only senior players (adults, usually those age 16 and over) are allowed to earn dan levels, signified by wearing a black belt. The USJF and USJA recognize dan grades awarded by the other organization. Advanced kyū levels can be earned by both seniors and juniors (children under the age of about 16) and are signified by wearing belts of various colours other than black. The order of belt colours can vary from dojo to dojo, depending on the dojo's organizational affiliation.

Seniors[edit]

For senior players, both the United States Judo Federation (USJF)[6] and ) the United States Judo Association (USJA) specify six kyū, as listed in the table. The USJA requires "Beginners" (not a kyū) to wear a white belt until they test for yellow belt. The USJA also recommends wearing a patch specifying the practitioner's level. This is true for both kyū and dan levels.

Juniors[edit]

The USJF Juniors ranking system specifies ranks to 11th kyū (jūichikyū). The USJA Juniors ranking system specifies twelve levels of kyū rank, beginning with "Junior 1st Degree" (equivalent to jūnikyū, or 12th kyū) and ending with "Junior 12th Degree" (equivalent to ikkyū). As with the senior practitioners, the USJA recommends that juniors wear a patch specifying their rank. When a USJA Junior reaches the age of 17, their conversion to Senior rank is:[9]

  • Yellow belt converts to 6th kyu (rokyu)
  • Orange belt converts to 5th kyu (gokyu)
  • Green belt converts to 4th kyu (yonkyu)
  • Blue belt or higher converts to 3rd kyu (sankyu)
The style of belt commonly worn in modern judo

References[edit]